To swim, bike and run on the same day is always a challenge. And though I enjoy all three sports, I’m still testing out the waters with shorter distances right now. Last year, I wrote about getting into triathlons and also doing my first triathlon – a sprint distance. This year, I did a slightly longer distance – called Olympic distance at the Auburn Triathlon.
Longer distances though are still daunting at this stage. But when one of our coaches suggested we check out the Graniteman Challenge event that involves all the sports, but over three days, I began to think it might be more feasible.
Impulsive decisions come quite naturally to me, so I decided to add another one to my list and sign up. The big event, which earns you the title of “Graniteman”, involves half Ironman distances (or nearly) – 2.4 mile swim, 100 mile ride and a 12.4 mile run/walk. However, they also had shorter distances in two categories – 1.2 mile swim, 71 mile ride, while the 3rd category (run/walk) remained the same.
So, along with another dozen team members of my tri-club, I signed on for the event. It would be my second tri this year – but spread over a few days. What better way to spend a weekend, right?
My preparations sadly didn’t quite go as planned. But then, they rarely do. In reality, I do make plans, and then manage to get completely off course. Despite thinking I’d do some preparatory bike rides and super long runs and swims, I basically landed up doing much lesser in terms of quality and quantity. Besides, I also had a chunk of travel that I had to fit in between, which I’ve written about (my adventures in North Carolina, involving very little cardio activity).
So as we drove up, a day before the event, I was a bit unsure and anxious about how things would go. Would I be able to stay in the water for the distance? Being a recent swimmer and only getting more comfortable in open water very recently, any long distance is still mind over matter for me.
The venue for the swim – June Lake – was perfect. With the backdrop of the Yosemite mountains, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect setting. I dipped my feet in and felt quite cold. It was around 7:30 am in the morning. Thankfully, by the time the swim started, it was 9 am and the water had warmed up slightly.
The swim started off as usual. Everyone raced off. I am usually the last one since swimming with people behind me makes me nervous. The first half a mile I spent talking to myself. My energy would come and go in waves. Suddenly, I would feel my spirits flagging, and then I had to talk to myself. I find my time in the water really interesting. It’s a struggle every minute I’m out there. I have to constantly motivate myself, think of something distracting or tell myself I can survive.
There’s really no other way out there I’ve realized. I also count my strokes. I go till around 20 and then start again. Getting to the first buoy was a relief. I called the paddle boarder close by and then took a few minutes rest, looked around, enjoyed the beautiful lake and thought to myself, “Aren’t I lucky to be here?” After that, I was off again, for the return leg.
Though I felt a bit more comfortable by now on the swim, I could feel my energy get pretty low. I had to stop at least 3-4 times to take stock of where I was in relation to the far-end buoy. It seemed to be moving – further away. Meanwhile, the fast swimmers who were doing the 2nd round, were already whooshing past me. I could see their arms taking powerful strokes, propelling them forward. At the speed of light or so it seemed! At times like this, I feel like a turtle. But then, there’s no time to feel sorry for myself. And I mutter a few words encouraging words to myself.
I think I’m getting closer to the last buoy. Or my mind could be playing tricks. Later, when I look at my Garmin data, I could see I veered to the right, away from the course. At some point, I realize this and correct myself and am then back on track. After the 3rd buoy, it’s a short swim to the 4th one (the course is rectangular in shape) and then it’s finally over.
I’m a bit dizzy at the end of it as I stumble over the finish line. I felt like it’s taken me forever. But I always remind myself that I only started swimming seriously last year. My coach often keeps saying, “Look how far you’ve come”. And this is what I try and keep in mind. Besides, I’m just about 2 minutes slower per 100 metres than the fast(er) swimmers. I can catch up. Maybe in a couple of years?
Meanwhile, it’s all about tri-ing!
NEXT: A 114 km (70+ mile) bike ride through the mountains and a 12.4 mile climbing up to Tioga Pass, with around a 3k feet elevation,